Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Domino Theory of Conflict Resolution

Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli-Syrian conflict. Israeli-Lebanon conflict. Israeli-Arab conflict. Israeli-Iranian conflict. Israeli-insert-your-Middle-Eastern-grievance-here conflict.

It's the key to Middle East peace. If we only just solve the conflict(s), then all countries will sue for peace.

Then all countries would allow economic development, personal freedoms and democracy to flourish. Al Qaeda would close down, and Osama bin Laden would abandon his quest for a global caliphate in preference to starting a Shopping Channel on pay-TV. Global warming would disappear. The English soccer team would win the World Cup.

The assumption is a positive correlation, perhaps a causative effect, of any Israeli-centric conflict resolution and Middle East peace. The logic goes: solve the conflicts with Israel (i.e. Israeli concessions including existential ones) and the rest will follow. The Domino Theory of Conflict Resolution.

Memo to those "Imagine-all-the-people" global citizenoids: there never will be long-term peace in the world, regardless of whether Israel - and the conflicts related to her - exist or not.

Some people not suffering from delusions of world peace argue that it is neither correlative nor causative.

Close, but not quite correct.

There does seem to be a correlation between a focus on conflicts involving Israel and the rest of the Middle East conflicts. It is not the actual conflict involving Israel that is the problem, but the discussion of it and the perceived linkage to it.

The reasoning is this. Conflicts involving Israel are a convenient excuse for unrelated problems and root causes. It serves a useful distraction for those responsible for the real problems, who include tyrants, radical Islamists and terrorists (some are members of more than one of these clubs).

However, as a self-fulfilling prophecy, once those club members have suckered in other world leaders and "honest" brokers into believing the issues are linked, they effectively are. Perception is reality.

The cart is then put before the horse. The focus is no longer on root causes, but on moot causes.

The first step to solving Middle East issues is not to try resolve those involving Israel. It is to decouple and isolate them.

Knocking over the Israeli dominos won't make the other dominos fall. They aren't even in the same room.

Which is why people like Tony Blair, so on the mark about the importance of values and ideology, is so disappointingly off the mark when he claims that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the opening act in the Middle East peace show.

Perhaps Blair is suffering from the same "leave-a-legacy" disease that afflicted Bill Clinton in his autumnal years in office, vis-a-vis the Camp David push for an Oslo-accord peace, which in turn accelerated the intifada.

Depressingly, now comes another actor onto the stage in this tragical farce, but at the start of his reign: Ban Ki-Moon, the new UN Secretary-General.

From a Jerusalem Post article:

Ban Ki-Moon, the new secretary-general of the United Nations, said on Monday that the Israeli-Palestinian issue was at the core of solving all the problems in the Middle East.
"If the issues with the conflicts between Israel and Palestine go well, [resolutions of] other issues in the Middle East, including Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and Syria, are likely to follow suit. I will meet with the concerned parties as soon as possible," Ban said in an interview.
Thought to self: How long until Ban-Ki Moon retires?

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